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Agriculture a big player in economy


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Towboats and barges are part of the system that moves grain through the Quad-Cities area.

The economy: What've corn, soybeans and wheat got to do with it?

A bushel, according to Illinois State Comptroller Loleta A. Didrickson, who said agriculture is a major player in the Illinois economy and world markets.

``There are few industries that are more active players in the global economy than the Illinois agriculture sector,'' Ms. Didrickson wrote recently in Fiscal Focus, an Illinois publication.

Illinois ranked third among the states in world exports in 1996.

While getting a handle on the exact contribution each county makes is difficult, it isn't wrong to estimate that Rock Island, Whiteside, Mercer and Henry counties contribute substantially, considering they usually are in the top 10 producing counties in corn, soybeans and hogs.

In 1996, corn, soybeans and hogs made up about 81 percent of Illinois' cash receipts from farm marketings, totaling $9.1 billion. The remaining 19 percent came from a variety of sources, including alfalfa, clover, grain sorghum, oats, beef and even Christmas trees.

The value of Illinois exports totaled $4 billion, nearly half the total cash receipts. Feed grains, such as corn and soybeans, accounted for 76 percent of the value of Illinois exports.

Illinois' agricultural base has made the state an attractive place for a variety of businesses. The food and fiber industry employs more than 1 million people in Illinois.

A 1994 U.S. Department of Agriculture study identified 304,000 Illinois jobs linked to agriculture -- farm owners, ag service and farm workers. Another 114,000 Illinois workers work in processing and marketing farm products, with another 36,000 employed by indirect agri-business industries that make related products, such as containers and food-product machinery.

Illinois continues to be strong in the production of farm equipment, with 38,000 workers, according to a 1994 study.

None of the figures reflect the thousands involved in restaurants or retail food distributors, or how a strong farm economy helps those in other sectors because of the increase in employment opportunities and increased spending.

-- By Pam Berenger (February 2, 1998)

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